June 26, 2022

Interior of the Alexander House, Springfield, Masse

The room is on the first floor of the Alexander House in Springfield, December 2, 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

The room in 2019:

The Alexander House is one of the oldest houses in Springfield and perhaps the best example of Federal-style architecture in the city. It was built in 1811 and originally stood on the north side of State Street between Elliot and Spring streets. However, it has been moved twice over the years, first in 1874 when it was moved a few hundred feet due to drainage problems. Then, a bigger move came in 2003, when it was moved to the corner of Elliot Street so that its old lot could be redeveloped as a federal courthouse. As a result, although these two photos show the same room, they were taken from different locations, the first on State Street and the second on the current lot of the house on Elliot Street.

The original owner of this house was merchant James Byers, who lived here from 1811 until 1820, when he sold it to Colonel Israel Trask. The house was briefly owned by the prominent portrait painter Chester Harding, but he sold it to Trask in 1832. Trask died three years later, but his family owned it until 1857. The next owner, and current namesake of the house, was banker and local politician Henry Alexander, Jr. He was the president of Springfield Bank, and he also held a number of elected offices, including alderman from 1857 to 1858, mayor from 1864 to 1865, and state senator from 1865 in 1868. Alexander named the house Linden Hall, and it was during his ownership that the house was first moved. He lived here until his death in 1878, and the house remained in the Alexander family for the next 60 years, until the death of his last surviving child, Amy B. Alexander, in 1938.

The Alexander House was designed by prominent architect Asher Benjamin and built by local contractor Simon Sanborn, responsible for most of the fine early 19th century homes in Springfield. In a rather unusual arrangement for a New England home, the house has no front door. Instead, it has two side entrances, which are connected by a hallway that spans the full width of the house. At the front of the house are two living rooms, one of which is shown here in these two photos. This particular room—located on the right side of the house when viewed from the street—originally faced southeast toward the corner of State and Spring Streets, although in the current orientation of the house, it faces southwest.

The first photo was taken less than a year after Amy Alexander’s death, as part of an effort to document the house for the Historic American Buildings Survey. At the time, the future of the house was still uncertain. One proposal reportedly involved moving it across the river to the village of Storrowton at the Big E exhibition grounds, but this was ultimately scrapped due to the challenges of such a move. Instead, in 1939 the house was acquired by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Now known as Historic New England, this organization has restored and maintained many historic homes across the region, and owned the Alexander House until shortly after the 2003 move. Since then, it has been owned to private individuals and is rented for offices, but it retains its historic appearance both outside and inside, and it is one of the most historical and important houses on the plan. architecture of the city.